Randal O’Toole blogs today about Seattle voters rejection of a massively expensive light rail system. Light-rail advocates in Charlotte and the Triangle should pay attention to this alarming stat:
"The average urban freeway lane costs about $10 million per mile. The average light-rail line costs about $50 million per mile and carries only a fifth as many people. Seattle’s proposed lines were going to cost $250 million per mile, making them 125 times more expensive at moving people than a freeway lane."
Let me repeat…the light rail system would be 125 times more expensive at moving people than a freeway lane. Now, the numbers that O’Toole uses may be off a little bit, but even if they are within reason we can draw some conclusions for NC.
For example, the South Corridor line in Charlotte cost $463 million to build 9.6 miles of track (2006 estimates). That comes to $48.2 million per mile. Conversely, for the same amount of money, Charlotte could have built eleven and a half miles worth of four-lane highway for the same amount of money. This calculation does not even take into account a comparison of future operating and maintenance costs between the two – a comparison that would make light rail look even worse. So the opportunity cost of the light rail line (which most people will never use) is a new four-lane highway that covers even more miles. Which do you think would ease traffic congestion more? The planners in Charlotte chose light rail.
Is this the kind of cost/benefit analysis we can expect from a "world-class city"?
Now think about your daily commute. If you could choose between a completely new, additional four-lane highway to drive on, or a goofy train system that you have to drive to, pay to park, pay for fare, wait until the next train comes along, have multiple stops and then most likely have a sizable walk to the office – which one would you choose?